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Is it normal to hear better in one ear? Is there a dominant ear?

Last update on May, 29, 2023

The right and left ears are not the same. They have distinct hearing abilities: in fact, they reflect the functional asymmetry of our brains. The brain hemispheres are connected to the ears and located on the opposite side: sounds coming from the right ear are processed by the left cerebral hemisphere and vice versa.

As the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for processing non-verbal information of sound, such as pitch, intensity and timbre, there is usually a preponderance of the left ear in listening to music and ambient sounds.

On the other hand, since the left cerebral hemisphere is responsible for the development of language and part of memory, verbal information will be more effective if transmitted through the right ear.

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How to determine your dominant ear: Ear dominance test

There is no specific test to assess ear dominance. To define the dominant ear, simply pay attention to how you approach the people who are speaking to you. If you turn the left cheek, the dominant ear will be the left. In many cases (90%), the dominant ear is the right one directly connected to the left hemisphere of the brain (the hemisphere responsible for processing external inputs).

In most cases, the right ear is the dominant one. The two ears each perceive different parts of the information provided, then reprocessed into a single signal within the brain. This separation is not yet well developed in children whose hearing relies much more on the right ear for language comprehension and memorization.

Although decreasing from the thirteenth year of age, this prevalence of the right ear also persists in adults: more complex information (which therefore requires greater cognitive effort) seems to be easier to memorize if transmitted to the right ear, according to what was recently reported by the Audiology team at Auburn University of Alabama.

Moreover, in conditions of noise pollution, such as loud concerts, clubs or other environments, the majority of verbal interactions between adults occur through the right ear.

The left ear is rarely the dominant one. It is more sensitive in picking up sound frequency modulations such as music and singing

One of the legends circulating about the specialization of the two hemispheres is that the right links to music. Studies conducted in recent years have shown things are different: the right hemisphere links to the pleasure we receive from listening to music and our ability to appreciate it, and the left analyzes the structure of a piece of music.

In short, musicians use the left hemisphere more to listen to music, while others use the right.

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One of the best ways to care for your ears and prevent hearing loss is to get them properly examined by a hearing professional. Find your nearest Miracle-Ear store to get started on your journey to better hearing.

Unilateral hearing loss and dominant ear

Hearing impairment in one ear has nothing to do with the presence of a predominant ear but with the onset of hearing loss. Single-Sided Deafness is hearing loss in which one ear has a normal hearing threshold while the other has severe or profound hearing loss. 

Mild to moderate hearing loss in one ear is referred to as unilateral or asymmetrical hearing loss.

In children, it is possible to recognize hearing loss from the first months of life. If the hearing loss is mild, moderate, or affects only one ear, a hearing aid may be used. Otherwise, another option can be a cochlear implant.

Unilateral hearing loss usually manifests as difficulty identifying where sounds are coming from and the direction of voices. Sometimes, using specific hearing aids (CROS) allows you to improve listening selectivity, perceiving sounds from a microphone placed on the ear affected by hearing loss and conveying them to the other ear.
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